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From the front lines of the Republican National Convention

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By The Staff

Editor’s note: As Republican Party alternative delegates Steve and Lynn Hesselbrock had the opportunity to view the presidential electoral process first hand. We asked them to report back to the Spencer Magnet about their experiences.

Lynn and I had made tentative plans to take a tropical vacation in September or October this year. We didn’t dream that we’d be in Minneapolis/St. Paul attending the Republican National Convention. In April we were nominated and elected as alternate delegates for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We gladly accepted! We’re thrilled to represent the Commonwealth and Spencer County! The following blogs are our daily report.

Saturday

We arrived at the airport just before noon and were immediately interviewed by two local TV stations as we picked up our luggage. The main question we were asked was, “what do you think of McCain’s pick for vice president?” That was an easy one for us to answer. We’re pumped!! She’s a breath of fresh air and has been a real reformer in Alaska, taking on the entrenched establishment throughout the system. We’re impressed with her values, accomplishments and life story. Her nomination is a story similar to the movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Every person who has talked to us about Governor Palin has the same impression and is just as enthusiastic.

We are staying at the Hyatt in Minneapolis which is about 6 miles from the convention hall in St. Paul. The Hyatt is hosting the delegations from Kentucky, Vermont and Idaho. There are shuttle buses every 30-60 minutes to and from the main convention center.

We took a walk Saturday afternoon and evening to get a bite to eat and find out where things were. This town is really rolling out the red carpet for the convention. There are civic volunteers answering questions on every street corner. A few convention facts: there are 10,000 local volunteers helping with the convention. There will be 45,000 visitors to the area, including 4,600 delegates and alternates and 15,000 members of the media. There will be 16,000 occupied hotel rooms. Before we arrived, we really didn’t appreciate how big this event is!

We also saw a few self styled anarchists in small gatherings. They are dressed in black and wear masks or face coverings. The police are shadowing them pretty closely and are within 100 feet at all times.

The convention won’t officially start until Monday. On Sunday there are welcoming receptions as well as a world premier for the movie “An American Carol.” I’m sure that we’ll do both of those. The only conflict is that the UK vs U of L is at the same time. Life is filled with decisions!

Sunday

Most of the talk today is of Hurricane Gustav of course. Everyone agrees that the convention will be and should be scaled down in the appropriate way. There was little information by mid day as to the impact on the proceedings.

We had two welcome events two blocks away from our hotel this afternoon and evening. The first was a welcome and greeting for the delegates. The event performer was Lee Greenwood. He gave an energetic performance and brought down the house with some new songs and especially with the closing number, “God Bless the U.S.A.” It was really a stirring concert and had the crowd buzzing. Lynn and I spotted Michael Medved in the crowd and went over and introduced ourselves to him. We listen to his radio program in the afternoon on AM 970 WGTK. He was very personable and down to earth.

After the concert there was a world premier viewing of the movie “An American Carol.” It is produced and directed by David Zucker and stars Jon Voight, Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, James Woods and Dennis Hopper. It was very entertaining and spoke to a lot of the issues today, not always politcally correct. The director and cast were there in person to introduce and speak after the movie. We sat only a few rows from the cast, which was entertaining. The movie was made in the spirit of the “Airplane” films and was quite funny. I think that its release date is October 3rd.

Afterward, we explored the booths and exhibits in the hall. We met and talked to folks from all over the nation including Guam and the Virgin Islands. The mood was good in spite of the uncertainty for the convention. Everyone is like-minded concerning a scaled back convention and how to address the hurricane impact.

I called my daughters, Katie and Emily to find out the result of the UK/UofL game. Go Cats!! Then it was back to the hotel for an early night so that we’d be ready for the first day of the convention tomorrow.

Monday

We started the day by sharing breakfast with fellow delegates Greg and Paula Burkot from Nelson County. We were all looking forward to the first day of the convention even though it was to be reduced due to the hurricane. Kentucky State Senate President David Williams stopped by our table to say hello, share his take on the convention.

There was a breakout session in our hotel that morning hosted by Karl Rove concerning grass roots election strategies. Our understanding was the Mr. Rove would give the closing remarks and then do a question and answer session, so we took our time at breakfast. Big mistake, Karl opened the session and we missed him.

At 12:30 that afternoon we all boarded the buses for the trip to the convention center in St.Paul. The security became tighter as we approached the convention site. We saw some protesters along the way but had no trouble. The day before, the Minneapolis police raided three houses and arrested numerous people who were in possession of flammable materials and other weapons. I don’t know how much national coverage this received but it was covered well here.

We entered the convention and found our seats in the Kentucky Alternate section, which was just off the floor. These were great seats with a close-up view of everything! Kentuckian Mike Duncan, national Republican chairman, certainly took care of his delegation.

The day’s events focused on official business. There were also taped speeches from the Gulf Coast governors affected by the hurricane. The two main speakers today were Laura Bush and Cindy McCain. Both gave fine speeches which were focused entirely on the hurricane. We had invitations to Chairman Mike Duncan and to Senator Mitch McConnell’s private boxes. We spent the break times traveling between the two and meeting and greeting with our fellow Kentucky contingent. It was good to get up and walk around. We did a bit of sightseeing and political celebrity watching. It was fun to spot the newscasters and newsmakers walking around behaving like normal people. We were walking by the Fox News booth and spotted a collection of folks who were gathered around actor Jon Voight. He had just finished an interview at Fox about his movie “An American Carol” which we saw the previous day. Lynn asked for a picture with him and Jon graciously accepted. He stayed around and talked to the crowd for about 20 minutes, a real gentleman.

One thing that took me by surprize was that the Arabic news channel, Aljazerra, had a booth right next to MSNBC. What a country we live in!

When we got back to our seats we heard that some protestors had detained a number of the buses. One group threw a brick through the window of another bus filled with Kentucky delegates. No one was injured thankfully. About 80 were arrested. I hope that the rest of the week is a bit more subdued.

Six of us had dinner that evening and we discussed many things. We reflected on how great our democracy is, imperfect and contentious as it is sometimes. Many millions of Americans are getting ready to participate and make history. We will either elect the first minority president or the first women vice president!